Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bottom Eleven: Things I Blogged About In 2015

To every high there is a low.  To every crowning achievement of someone's life, there's the moments where they feel like they've hit bottom.  For every delicious ice cream flavor life provides, it has several cases of bubble-gum ice cream sitting somewhere in the back, just waiting.

I mean, seriously, why would you put gum, something not traditionally swallowed, into something that has a time limit before it melts and loses half of its appeal?  Do you chew while licking?  Do you gather the gum separately and store it while you finish the ice cream, then chew it?  Who approved this abomination of taste?

But I'm getting off track.  This past year I've had some things I discussed that I look back fondly on (see: yesterday's post), but there are also things I shudder and wonder "was I mean enough to that?  Did I properly display the vitriol I felt towards that thing's very existence in order to convince people to not try to experience it themselves?"

Because if not, here's eleven more shots at those things to remind you that they exist and that they're terrible.

These are like finding a dead roach in your bubble-gum ice cream.

Number 11:  Ready Player One

Okay, I'm starting out somewhat controversial here, as I know this book has a ton of fans (I, personally, know several of them), and they'll probably want to question all of my judgement if I say I don't love a book that's one massive love letter to pop culture.

But having listened to the audio book, I said before that I thought my favorite parts were when the series didn't fixate on pop culture references, because simply shouting out the names of things from the past without giving any cultural context as to why they were enjoyed or influential on culture is simply shameless pandering to nerds.  Sure, I remember the television shows and video games and movies of the 80's, but unless you connect the culture of then to whenever your series takes place, it just seems hollow and unbelievable that a society like today would embrace all the things we embraced exactly as they were.

There was a good story in there, but I spent so much time fast-forwarding through lists of pop-culture references and feeling angry at the potential that was wasted that I feel it belongs on this list.

Number 10:  Look, I can appreciate eye candy as much as the next person, but Team Ninja has a problem, man.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  There's nothing wrong with a nice pin-up.  Female models, male models, as long as the person posing is being paid well and doesn't mind, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having some eye candy out in the world.  There's also nothing wrong with there being things more extreme than simply "pin-ups" in the world, but I don't think anybody expects Playboy to attempt to disguise one of their DVDs as "high class cinema" or Hustler (do they still make that?) to pretend an issue of its magazine belongs high literature.  It is what it is.  Accept it and flaunt it.

So to see Team Ninja continue to exist as this weird quasi-pornographic entity that not only makes games starring one of the most beloved female characters in video game history and turns her into a simpering girl for men to feel powerful over but to continually shove download after download at us, hoping we'll continue to spend money on ways to take (reportedly) strong female characters, shove them into increasingly degrading outfits, and then pose them for whatever masturbatory fantasies we can still have over characters I could probably see doing explicit things with a quick Google search thanks to fan art.

At last check over multiple forums, it would cost more than $150 to get all the costumes and bonus material for the most recent Dead or Alive game.  That's shameful.

Number 9: Grand Theft Auto V

Between bland characters, wonky controls, missions that seemed designed solely to waste my time instead of let me feel any actual sense of achievement, and an online server that wouldn't let me connect for more than two minutes, I spent most of my time playing Grand Theft Auto silently wishing I was playing a Saints Row game instead.

That about sums it up, really.  I have friends who swear by the online experience, but sadly I was never able to enjoy that because of either my ISP or the game's server deciding I wasn't "worthy."

Number 8:  Sarku Japan

There are many things on this list that bothered me, upset me, or frustrated me.  Only one made me feel violently ill and that I had to contact authorities.  That would be watching an employee at Sarku Japan at the Maine Mall dip a utensil into raw chicken, dump said chicken on a grill, and then immediately shove the spatula into food that would have no chance of reaching the temperatures required to kill the bacteria on raw chicken.

I haven't eaten there since, and I actively try to destroy people's pleasurable memories of the company by explaining what happens when salmonella or botulism get into peoples systems.

Number 7: Requiem for the Phantom

It was going to be this or the eX-Driver movie, but I was able to finish the movie, so I chose this series instead.  Being "bad" is bad enough for an animated series, but this series almost achieved the opposite of what Moribito did.  Where one series made me excited to see what kind of media was coming out of Japan next, this series made me wonder whether I had ever enjoyed anything to begin with.

Altered character designs, stripping characters of anything that made them interesting, filler where no filler was needed, and a general blandness took a memory of mine that I cherished and essentially turned it into a Cecilia Gimenez work.

Number 6:  Mr. Nanny

As I said before, it took me four days to get through this movie.  Hulk Hogan's career might be in tatters now between poor decisions he's made (personal, private, and career-based), but this movie made me actually look back at myself as a child and wonder, "what was wrong with you?"  I figure that as long as I never find any episodes of Rock'N Wrestling to watch, I'll be able to have a flicker of nostalgia for those bygone years when Hulkamania was something people celebrated.

Number 5: Devil Seed

Devil Seed is to advancing film careers what Jason Voorhees is to teenage celibacy promotions.  Yeah, it might get the job done in some limited way, but someone is going to look back at it and wonder just how it ever got approved to move forward.

Devil Seed is a terrible movie.  The only redeeming value it has as a film is to act as a giant example you can pause every thirty seconds to show film students "see this?  Don't do this."  Characters made some of the worst decisions I've ever seen in film history ("It appears your friend was raped, so why don't you take her home to sleep in the bed she was reportedly raped in!"), the acting is flaccid when it isn't ridiculous, the story has enough holes spread across it that bees probably try to store honey in the original film stock, and everything from the lighting to the set design has me wondering if the movie even had a budget or if it just somehow materialized out of nothingness in an effort to keep Shantelle Canzanese from having anything good on her resume.

Speaking of Shantelle...

Number 4:  Two Worlds II

This is the game that taught me that the phrase "unlike the last one, this one is playable" isn't praise.  Technically Dance Dance Revolution would be playable if you had your arms and legs tied up and had to bash the floor plates with your face.  It's a game that has some good ideas, but utterly fails to implement them in any way that builds the interest of the player past the first five minutes.  In fact, whatever goodwill it builds is immediately destroyed by a tutorial system that seems almost impossible to get through, landscapes that look like they were poorly designed back in the 90s, and a lead character so bland that tofu seems exciting.

Also, the "praise" is also a lie, as the game is playable only in the sense that "after you reload for the fifth time, you might be able to finish a single combat without getting killed by bad guys clipping through walls more often than ghosts do in Ghostbusters.

An utterly miserable experience, and one I can only blame myself for.

As opposed to the next one, that I can blame someone else for.

Number 3:  Bold Eagles

The fact that Phase 4 Studios bought the rights to foreign animated films and repurposed them for American audiences isn't bad, in of itself.  There are lots of great characters in foreign cartoons and cinema, and if it wasn't for people taking a chance to bring new things over from other countries, we wouldn't have the Smurfs, Tintin, or Zatoichi.

But when you take something beloved to another country and butcher it to the point that the carcass is unrecognizable, then you and I are going to have a conversation.

When you take the corpse of that beloved franchise and put in nonsensical dialogue that even a child who doesn't speak the native language would look at as being completely illogical and mindless, then I feel the urge to go out and burn down your offices.  During the work day.  With chairs blocking the exits.

With weird gender politics (a car thinking that an egg inside it makes it a "mommy?"), disturbing imagery and brilliant writing like "people who hide always have something to hide," this movie was so bad that I almost forgot to include it on my list because my brain had just about scrubbed it from my memory out of a dire need for self-preservation.  That, and the space used by this movie could be used for anything more productive, like the date and time I last trimmed my toe nails, or memories watching shadows from a ceiling fan spin around.

Number 2:  Blood Angels

This is the movie that made me debate quitting my blog.  It's so bad, it sucked away the fun from things I tried watching after I saw this movie, and I'm pretty sure it somehow managed to go back in time and sour my memories of things I watched before I ever put the DVD in to play.

I'm just going to quote my post from that day:  "This movie is the equivalent of Little Caesar's Pretzel Pizza.  It's a lie given form, a mockery of things we love given shape to disguise itself for the unsuspecting.  This movie is a twisted life form, one that has observed human behavior but doesn't understand what it has just seen.  It's the only way I can explain how it manages to reference so many other films (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Coyote Ugly, etc) but absolutely fail at honoring the original material in any way.  It wears the skins of other movies like Leatherface wears dead teenagers, mangling and twisting them almost beyond recognition and stripping them of anything that once made them beautiful.

If I had to guess, this was a movie made by people who hate movies.  I can't imagine there was anybody present during filming who had any idea this would be anything more than "a way to make rent this month."  The acting is abysmally bad with a central cast who act like all of their acting lessons were to watch Pamela Anderson's filmography and were then told "if you can be .01% better than that, it'll be enough.""
Number 1:  Austin Crackers

Remember how I said before that there was only one thing on this list that made me want to project the contents of my stomach before an audience?  Well, that's still true, if only because the peanut butter and jelly crackers made by this company are so bad my body went into full lock down, unable to process whether what I ate was actually food or whether I somehow managed to swallow dangerous chemicals that would do more harm by being put back into my esophagus.  It was the equivalent of eating something a small child prepares for their parents in terrible commercials and movies when they need a joke taking place during "breakfast in bed."  Eating the plastic wrapper the crackers came in would provide a more pleasurable experience.

I'll even go so far as to say that I've eaten spoiled food that tasted better than those crackers.  I won't go into detail, but there are spoiled foods I've accidentally consumed that did less damage to my ability to appreciate food than these crackers did.  If I was to compare the joys of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches versus eating those crackers against, say, landscapes from The Lion King, the former would be the sights, smells, and sounds of the pride lands, rich and full and making you feel better about life as you experience it.  The crackers are essentially attempting to lick your way across the elephant graveyard, making sure to get every single hyena along the way.  EVERY INCH OF EVERY HYENA.  WITH YOUR TONGUE.

So, we're going to do something special tomorrow as I look back over the last few years of this blog and see just what posts people apparently really wanted to read.  A preliminary glimpse has a few surprises and some "not so big" surprises, but I'm really curious to see what the list contains.

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